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NGO Crisis Management Exercise Manual: a guide to developing and facilitating effective exercises

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13 March 2023

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NGO Crisis Management Exercise Manual: a guide to developing and facilitating effective exercises

The threats confronting aid workers are rising significantly. The environments in which NGO staff travel and work delivering programs around the world present considerable risks to their security, safety, health, and wellbeing. In the face of such threats, organizations have a duty to ensure an effective and timely response to critical incidents and emergency situations involving their staff, wherever they occur.

Whilst each incident is unique and requires a tailored response, it is paramount that before an incident occurs, measures and capacities are in place that will enable an organization to effectively manage potential crisis situations. Preparation, through a combination of detailed plans, trained staff, and specialist support, is vital for the successful management of any incident, especially where a coordinated, effective response involving different locations and stakeholders is required.

Crisis Management Exercises (CMEs) are an integral component of an organization’s preparedness strategy. Having a plan is not merely enough; organizations also need to ‘learn by doing’. Crisis Management Teams (CMTs) need the opportunity to practice potential responses and test various assumptions to ensure they can coordinate and respond effectively to critical incidents. Learning from exercises, and identifying gaps in plans prior to a real incident, can significantly strengthen an organization’s crisis management capabilities, and ultimately help ensure a more positive outcome.

This manual is aimed principally at security leads within international development, humanitarian, human rights, and peace and democracy organizations who are looking to facilitate crisis management exercises for other organizations, as part of a peer-to-peer exchange, or within their own organizations.

Whether you are new to facilitating crisis management exercises and looking for helpful hints, or seeking ideas to enhance your existing exercises, the manual provides practical guidance and useful insights into the design, preparation, delivery, and learning from crisis management exercises.

You can download the complete manual on the left and the associated tools can be downloaded in an editable format using the links below.


This manual was developed jointly by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) of the US State Department and GISF.


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